Bethany Collins: My destiny is in your hands
August 29 through November 01, 2020
On view in Atrium, Blackmon, and Weil Galleries
Bethany Collins (born 1984), a native of Montgomery currently living in Chicago, is a multidisciplinary artist whose works critically explore how race and language interact. The exhibition Bethany Collins: My destiny is in your hands features a number of works that illuminate the various ways she explores these themes along with notions of home and belonging.
For example, My destiny is in your hands (2018) for which the exhibition is named, is a white on white, flocked wallpaper depicting official state flowers from her home state of Alabama along with flowers from the states where her ancestors moved during the Great Migration. Collins uses floriography, the coded language of flowers popularized during the Victorian era, to explore the sometimes-conflicting meanings behind the flowers. In addition, the installation features at least 300 camellia petals, memorializing the number of documented lynchings which occurred during Alabama’s post-Reconstruction period (1877–1943).
This installation wraps around the gallery where her work, America: A Hymnal (2017) sits. This artist book features all 100 versions of Rev. Samuel F. Smith’s song, My Country ’Tis of Thee. Since its inception on July 4, 1831, many have reinterpreted the song to suit their own causes—from temperance and suffrage to abolition and the Confederacy. Each version articulates, in some way, what it means to be an American in our diverse country during various moments throughout history. The MMFA will present a performance of all 100 songs towards the end of the exhibition.
Joining these works are 15 works from her Southern Review series. In an attempt to rewrite a Southern narrative, Collins alters found pages of the Louisiana-based journal by redacting much of the text. Leaving only the title and the author’s name, she creates a black box on the page for the viewer to engage and imagine what is hidden below.
Also included are two works from Collins’ Contronym series, including Certain, 1982 from the MMFA Permanent Collection. In these works, Collins copies, by hand, various entries from a 1982 dictionary. Using her own spit, she erases, blurs, and obliterates all but one relevant contronym (words that contain their own opposite) or idiom inherent in the definition. This work poetically relates to mark making and her body—because of the demanding physical nature of her process—along with the personal and collective ways we interpret language and meaning. In addition, Collins will also create two new pieces for the exhibition as well as form a floriographic interpretation of select works from the MMFA Permanent Collection.
Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
This exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts
Bethany Collins (American, born 1984), America: A Hymnal, 2017, artist book with 100 laser cut leaves, Lent by the artist
Bethany Collins (American, born 1984), My destiny is in your hands, 2018, custom flocked wallpaper, Lent by the artist
Bethany Collins (American, born 1984), Southern Review, multiple dates, charcoal on paper, Lent by the artist